The Chief Justice spoke about the barriers experienced by the Judiciary in its functioning after the events of 2009. The effects of the travel ban imposed on judges and the important judicial reforms implemented by him to promote an open and equal justice system.
The Chief Justice’s opening statements were followed by the opening statements of Mr. Christopher Pryde the Director of Public Prosecutions who explained the basis of prosecution in Fiji, the non-political nature of the decision to prosecute and the number of assault cases committed by police officers which were currently before the Courts.
His statements were followed by the opening statements of the Chair of Media Industry Development Authority, Mr. Ashwin Raj who set out the challenges of promoting ethical journalism in Fiji and the efforts of the Media Industry Development Authority to build a trained and strong media. He also addressed the relationship between the Media Industry Development Decree, freedom of expression in the Constitution and the permissible limitations on freedom of expression such as hate speeches and defamation of character.
The Council then broke into interactive dialogue between individual countries and the Fijian delegation. The dialogue included a discussion on violence against women, on media freedom, on the way in which limitations in the Constitution will be read and the important inclusion of social and economic rights in the Fijian Constitution. All countries which spoke in this dialogue congratulated Fiji on its recent elections and on its strong and progressive Constitution. Many countries also commended Fiji on its strong advocacy and implementation of social and economic rights.
In relation to questions about the participatory process of Constitution building, the Attorney General and Minister for Justice told the Human Rights Council Working Group about the numbers of submissions received and the process of consultation which was adopted before the drafting of the Constitution.
In response to the questions about the independence of the Judiciary, the Chief Justice explained how the UN basic principles on the independence of the Judiciary had been incorporated into the Constitution. He said that there was no evidence of any interference with Fiji’s judiciary by Government and that the Judiciary was committed to reforms.
Some countries asked about the way in which media freedom was protected under the Media Development Decree 2010 and the Constitution. The Chair of the Media Industry Development Authority explained that the code of ethics in the Media Decree 2010 and the limitations to freedom of expression in the Bill of Rights aligns with the jurisprudence on European Court of Human Rights and that media laws in Fiji are not an exception to those practised in other jurisdictions.
Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, Ambassador Madam Nazhat Shameem addressed the issue of the under reported dark figure of gender based violence and ways in which Fiji had addressed the need for victims of gender based violence to report these offences.
Fiji’s report and presentation following the interactive dialogue were highly commended by many State representatives. Fiji’s report together with a list of recommendations made by countries will be tabled at the Human Rights Council on 31 October 2014. That will be followed by a concluding speech by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Mr. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Source: Ministry of Information, Fiji